Word Cloud: EARTH


Religion and Science — two different approaches to the questions, How Does Stuff Work? and Why Do Things Happen?

When you start with the same questions, you often uncover similar answers. The Elements, for example.

The “basic four”— Earth, Air, Water and Fire — show up in religions all around the world, and they’re fundamental to alchemy, one of the stepping-stones to Science. So this week, we’ll be looking at Earth, the first of the four, through the lens of poetry.

Earth — our home — and earth, the element where rooted life begins and grows, which in turn nourishes the unrooted life that moves by foot or wing or wriggle.



by Joy Harjo

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.



Here, Carl Sandburg reminds us that beneath our civilized skins, we are still akin to the abundant life which is nurtured by the earth.


by Carl Sandburg

There is a wolf in me . . . fangs pointed for tearing gashes . . . a red tongue for raw meat
. . . and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fox in me . . . a silver-gray fox . . . I sniff and guess . . . I pick things out of the wind and air . . . I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers . . . I circle and loop and double-cross.

There is a hog in me . . . a snout and a belly . . . a machinery for eating and grunting . . . a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun—I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fish in me . . . I know I came from salt-blue water-gates . . . I scurried with shoals of herring . . . I blew waterspouts with porpoises . . . before land was . . . before the water went down . . . before Noah . . . before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me . . . clambering-clawed . . . dog-faced . . . yawping a galoot’s hunger . . . hairy under the armpits . . . here are the hawk-eyed hankering men . . . here are the blonde and blue-eyed women . . . here they hide curled asleep waiting . . . ready to snarl and kill . . . ready to sing and give milk . . . waiting—I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird . . . and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want . . . and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart—and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.



In this poem, Willa Cather contrasts the back-breaking labor needed to wrest our ‘daily bread’ from the soil, with the energy and passion of the late spring and early summer of our lives.

Prairie Spring

by Willa Cather

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.



People who think they don’t like poetry forget that the words of the songs they love are poetry too. Carole Kings’ anthem of the ‘earthy’ side of love is a great example.

I Feel The Earth Move

by Carole King

I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down, tumbling down
I feel my heart start to trembling
Whenever you’re around

Ooh, baby, when I see your face
Mellow as the month of May
Oh, darling, I can’t stand it
When you look at me that way

I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down, tumbling down
I feel my heart start to trembling
Whenever you’re around

Oh, darling, when you’re near me
And you tenderly call my name
I know that my emotions
Are something I just can’t tame
I’ve just got to have you, baby

I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down, tumbling down
I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down
I just lose control

Down to my very soul
I get a hot and cold all over
I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down,
Tumbling down, tumbling down…



Civilization has given us many gifts, but it’s also added so many demands and complications to our lives. Here, Charles Simic sets aside the clutter, and lies in bed reviewing the timeless joys all around us.

Summer Morning

by Charles Simic

I love to stay in bed
All morning,
Covers thrown off, naked,
Eyes closed, listening.

Outside they are opening
Their primers
In the little school
Of the corn field.

There’s a smell of damp hay,
Of horses, laziness,
Summer sky and eternal life.

I know all the dark places
Where the sun hasn’t reached yet,
Where the last cricket
Has just hushed; anthills
Where it sounds like it’s raining;
Slumbering spiders spinning wedding dresses.

I pass over the farmhouses
Where the little mouths open to suck,
Barnyards where a man, naked to the waist,
Washes his face and shoulders with a hose,
Where the dishes begin to rattle in the kitchen.

The good tree with its voice
Of a mountain stream
Knows my steps.
It, too, hushes.

I stop and listen:
Somewhere close by
A stone cracks a knuckle,
Another rolls over in its sleep.

I hear a butterfly stirring
Inside a caterpillar,
I hear the dust talking
Of last night’s storm.

Further ahead, someone
Even more silent
Passes over the grass
Without bending it.

And all of a sudden!
In the midst of that quiet,
It seems possible
To live simply on this earth.



Lizette Woodworth Reese gives us a perfect memory of the land under the relentless sun of a late summer day.


by Lizette Woodworth Reese

No wind, no bird. The river flames like brass.
On either side, smitten as with a spell
Of silence, brood the fields. In the deep grass,
Edging the dusty roads, lie as they fell
Handfuls of shriveled leaves from tree and bush.
But ’long the orchard fence and at the gate,
Thrusting their saffron torches through the hush,
Wild lilies blaze, and bees hum soon and late.
Rust-colored the tall straggling briar, not one
Rose left. The spider sets its loom up there
Close to the roots, and spins out in the sun
A silken web from twig to twig. The air
Is full of hot rank scents. Upon the hill
Drifts the noon’s single cloud, white, glaring, still.



John Keats is listening to what city-dwellers think of as the ‘silence’ of the natural world, which in reality is full of sounds that our ears, bludgeoned by the grinding and blaring sounds of crowded streets, often miss.

On the Grasshopper and Cricket

by John Keats

The Poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s—he takes the lead
In summer luxury,—he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.



In death, we become part of the earth, but like most of us, Edna St. Vincent Millay finds it hard to accept that each of our lives is only a tiny part of the life cycle of this planet.

Dirge Without Music

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.  Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone.  They are gone to feed the roses.  Elegant and curled
Is the blossom.  Fragrant is the blossom.  I know.  But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know.  But I do not approve.  And I am not resigned.



Mona Van Duyn shows us that nothing reminds us more clearly than the jolt of an earthquake that everything on our planet changes and everything is moving all the time.

Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri

by Mona Van Duyn

The quake last night was nothing personal,
you told me this morning. I think one always wonders,
unless, of course, something is visible: tremors
that take us, private and willy-nilly, are usual.

But the earth said last night that what I feel,
you feel; what secretly moves you, moves me.
One small, sensuous catastrophe
makes inklings letters, spelled in a worldly tremble.

The earth, with others on it, turns in its course
as we turn toward each other, less than ourselves, gross,
mindless, more than we were. Pebbles, we swell
to planets, nearing the universal roll,
in our conceit even comprehending the sun,
whose bright ordeal leaves cool men woebegone.



Mary Oliver tells of a night spent lying on the earth, looking up at all the stars we can’t see through city lights, and feeling the rhythm of forest lives unnoticed in daylight.

Sleeping In The Forest

by Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.



May Swenson celebrates being an Earthling.

Earth Your Dancing Place

by May Swenson

Beneath heaven’s vault
remember always walking
through halls of cloud
down aisles of sunlight
or through high hedges
of the green rain
walk in the world
highheeled with swirl of cape
hand at the swordhilt
of your pride
Keep a tall throat
Remain aghast at life

Enter each day
as upon a stage
lighted and waiting
for your step
Crave upward as flame
have keenness in the nostril
Give your eyes
to agony or rapture

Train your hands
as birds to be
brooding or nimble
Move your body
as the horses
sweeping on slender hooves
over crag and prairie
with fleeing manes
and aloofness of their limbs

Take earth for your own large room
and the floor of the earth
carpeted with sunlight
and hung round with silver wind
for your dancing place



May Swenson is right – we are most strongly connected to our earth when we dance barefoot upon her, when children splash through mud puddles, or when we kneel to kiss her at the end of long voyages in the air or on the water because we have arrived safely, back where we belong.

The Authors

  • Joy Harjo (1951—  ) is a gifted teacher, in the classroom, and as a poet and musician. She is member of the Mvskoke tribe, and and the first Native American appointed as U.S. Poet Laureate.
  • Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) is one of America’s best-known and best-loved poets. He was born in Illinois, and spent much of his life in the Midwest, but spent his final decades in North Carolina, at Connemara, his rural  home.
  • Willa Cather (1873-1957) is much better known for her novels and short stories about life on the Great Plains. Her novel One of Ours won the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for Literature.
  • Carole King (1942—  ) is a renowned singer-songwriter and composer. Among the dozens of honors she has received, she was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
  •  Charles Simic (1938 —  ) was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia). He came to the U.S. at age 16, living in the Chicago area. He has published over 20 books of his poetry, and many translations of other authors.
  • Lizette Woodworth Reese (1856-1935) was born in Maryland to a Southerner and a German mother. She taught English for almost 50 years in Baltimore schools, co-founded the Women’s Literary Club of Baltimore, and published 9 books of poetry.
  • John Keats (1795-1821)  is a much-loved poet who was born in London, England, and managed to publish 3 books of poetry before he died at age 25 of tuberculosis.
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) was born in Maine, and became a well-known poet and playwright, with a strong feminist style. The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver won the Pulitzer Prize.
  • Mona Van Duyn (1921-2004) came from Iowa, and won every major American award for poetry. She served as the Library of Congress Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in 1992.
  • Mary Oliver comes from Ohio, and won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. The New York Times calls her “America’s best-selling poet.”
  • May Swenson (1913 -1989) was born in Utah to parents who immigrated from Sweden, so English was her second language. She won the Bollingen Prize for poetry, and was nominated for National Books Awards for both poetry and translation.

The Poems

  • “Remember” from She Had Some Horses, ©1983 by Joy Harjo – W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.  
  • “Wilderness” from The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg, Harcourt Brace Iovanovich Inc. (1970) 
  • “Prairie Spring” (Willa Cather public domain) 
  • “I Feel the Earth Move” song by James Taylor and Carole King
  • “Summer Morning” from Selected Poems 1963-83© 1983 by Charles Simic , George Braziller 
  • “August” (Lizette Woodworth Reese, public domain)
  • “On the Grasshopper and Cricket” (John Keats public domain) 
  • “Dirge Without Music”from Collected Poems © 1928, 1955 by Edna St. Vincent Millay & Norma Millay Ellis, Harper Collins 
  • “Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri” from Selected Poems, © 2002 by Mona Van Duyn – Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
  • “Sleeping in the Forest” from New and Selected Poems, © 1993 by Mary Oliver, Beacon Press 
  • “Earth Your Dancing Place” from Nature: Poems Old and New, © 2013 by May Swenson Literary Estate, Mariner Books 


  • Sunrise, Kamchatka, Russia
  • Wild eye from Zoo poster
  • Spring wheat
  • Woman’s bare feet on wooden floor
  • Man’s bare feet balance on rocks
  • Long dry grass, Martis Valley Truckee CA photo by Jess Gibbs
  • Grasshopper and cricket drawings, artist uncredited
  • Rose on headstone
  • Earthquake crack, Costa de Hermosillo Mexico
  • Stars above trees
  • Dancer’s bare feet on earth

Word Cloud photo by Larry Cloud

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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2 Responses to Word Cloud: EARTH

  1. Wow, wonderful choices for this topic! I would have a hard time picking a favorite…

  2. wordcloud9 says:

    I was delighted that so many of the poets which I admire had written wonderful poems that fit this theme so well!

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